It is commonly accepted that there are now many more people who speak English as a second or later language than there are native speakers of it. In China alone, some estimate that there are as many learners of English (some 350 million) as there are native speakers of it (Xu, this volume). This means that the great majority of the world’s English users are multilinguals. As Graddol (2006: 114) has pointed out, this extraordinary increase in the number of English speakers in today’s world means that the position and prestige previously associated with being a native speaker of English is becoming questioned. Furthermore, the monolingual speaker of English is likely to be at a considerable disadvantage in today’s multilingual world, especially when so many of the multilinguals have English as one of their languages. The spread of English – where ‘spread implies adaptation and non-conformity’
(Widdowson 1997: 140) – has seen the development of many different varieties of English. Many of these newer varieties of English developed in places which were colonized by English-speaking colonizers, primarily from Great Britain, but also from the United States of America, as was the case in the Philippines, for example. New varieties developed in these countries and some of these later became institutionalized. Thus we can now talk about the different varieties of English across many parts of the world, including many African countries, in the subcontinent, across Asia and in the Caribbean. We can also talk about the different varieties of English which exist within each country where English has become institutionalized. Varieties of English are not restricted to these postcolonial settings, of course. There
remains an extraordinary range of varieties and variation within the traditional homes of English. Great Britain is host to a large number of distinctive vernaculars of English, from Doric in the north east of Scotland to West Country in Devon and Cornwall. The United States is also home to a wide range of English vernaculars, as are the other ‘settlement’ colonies (Mufwene 2001) such as Australia and New Zealand, where local varieties of English spoken by Australian Aborigines and New Zealand Maori add to the mix. Kachru, the scholar who could be called the founding father of World Englishes as a
discipline, classiﬁed the various types of Englishes using a circles analogy (Kachru 1992). This classiﬁcation is adopted or discussed by a number of contributors to this
volume, and Schneider (Chapter 21) gives a useful summary. Kachru called the Englishes of Great Britain, the United States and settlement colonies in general, ‘inner circle’ varieties. The new Englishes that developed in these settlement colonies depended more on the speech of the settlers themselves, although the speech and languages of the indigenous inhabitants naturally had – and continue to have – some inﬂuence. The Englishes which developed in the trade or exploitation colonies, such as those in Africa and Asia, were naturally more inﬂuenced by the languages of the indigenous peoples, simply because there was much more contact between the colonizers and the locals and because the locals usually represented the overwhelming majority of the population. Kachru classiﬁed these Englishes as ‘outer circle’ varieties. The third ‘circle’ of Englishes which Kachru identiﬁed belonged to the ‘expanding circle’. These were found in countries where English was traditionally learned as a foreign language and in which English played little or no administrative or institutional role. As Kachru himself has pointed out, however, it is in these expanding circle countries where the development of English has been most pronounced in recent years. For example, as China’s economic and political inﬂuence spreads, so has the role of English increased in importance for many educated Chinese within China. As argued by several contributors to this Handbook, it seems likely that new varieties of English will develop in at least some of the countries which were classiﬁed as belonging to the expanding circle. In addition to these regional varieties of English, there is also a range of Englishes
whose roles and features are determined by their function. These include, for example, the Englishes of businesses and computer-mediated Englishes. They include the Englishes of academia and of pop culture. And, as Pennycook reminds us in the ﬁnal chapter of this Handbook, we are also seeing the emergence of ‘translingua franca English’ whereby ‘new’ English speakers draw on linguistic resources which are not determined by national boundaries. The very number of different varieties of English – both ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ – coupled
with the extraordinary increase in the use of English as the international lingua franca among English-speaking multilinguals, means that the publication of this Handbook of World Englishes is timely. The Handbook aims to provide the general reader and student with an overview of recent developments and debates in this rapidly expanding ﬁeld. It should be stressed, however, that no Handbook of World Englishes could ever be complete. There are simply too many Englishes and varieties of these to be covered in a single volume. Instead, this Handbook will provide an overview and description of a selected number of Englishes, regional, national, functional and international, along with a review of recent trends, debates and the implications of these new developments for the future of English. The Handbook is divided into six sections, namely ‘Historical perspectives and tradi-
tional Englishes’, ‘Regional varieties and the “New” Englishes’, ‘Emerging trends and themes’, ‘Contemporary contexts and functions’, ‘Debates and pedagogical implications’ and ‘The future’.